Hyundai Santa Fe review

Our Rating: 
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a good looking, well built seven-seat SUV with a limited model range and a high asking price

Looks and drives well, option of seven seats, lots of kit
High list price, only one engine option, notchy gearchange

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The third generation Hyundai Santa Fe SUV is a spacious and upmarket family car that rivals models such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5. What’s more, the option of five or seven-seat layouts gives it a practical advantage.

There’s one drivetrain offered across the Hyundai Santa Fe range, in the shape of a 194bhp 2.2 CRDi diesel mated to a four-wheel-drive transmission, so the only option you need to choose is whether to go for a manual or automatic gearbox. 

Best 4x4s on the market

Another factor worth taking into account is the pricing of the Hyundai Santa Fe. With a starting price nudging £28,000, it's edging close to premium SUV pricing. This is a problem for the Hyundai Santa Fe, as it still can't match the Germans for cabin quality or badge appeal.

On the plus side, the Santa Fe’s cabin is roomy, and Hyundai includes an excellent five-year warranty. There’s also a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP for added peace of mind.

Overall, the Santa Fe is a solid all-round big family car. That's why it won the award for Auto Express' Best Large SUV of 2014 and still features on our best 4x4s to buy list.

Our choice: Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Premium 7 Seat

Engines, performance and drive


While the Hyundai has four-wheel drive, the part-time system means it drives like a front-drive car in most circumstances, and you’ll only feel the dynamic benefits when grip is low.

The six-speed auto looks archaic alongside the eight and nine-speed autos in some rivals, but given that the 2.2 CRDi diesel delivers 194bhp and 436Nm of torque, the Hyundai proves you don’t need lots of gears to deliver good performance.

Spec it with the six-speed manual, and the Santa Fe will sprint from 0-60mph in a sprightly 9.8 seconds. 

Hyundai Santa Fe rear action

At low speeds, the suspension smooths out rough surfaces well, yet go faster and it thumps into big bumps, sending shudders through the cabin. Undulating roads will see the Hyundai pitching and wallowing like a boat, and the soft suspension results in lots of body roll in corners. 

It’s not helped by the steering, which is rather vague. The Santa Fe features Hyundai’s Flex Steer system, which allows the driver to vary the assistance, although in normal driving, the differences between the three settings are barely perceptible. Overall, the car is vice-free, but a little underwhelming.

There’s a good range of seat and wheel adjustment to help you get comfortable in the Santa Fe, but you’re aware of the car’s size. While you sit high, the view ahead is spoiled by the chunky A-pillars, which cause nasty blind spots.

MPG, CO2 and running costs


The Hyundai Santa isn't too bad when it comes to running costs. Despite its powerful 194bhp 2.2-litre CRDi engine, it emits either 155, 159 or 178g/km of CO2 depending on the drivetrain and/or trim level.

With the six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel-drive, the Hyundai Santa Fe manages 47.9mpg and emits 155. When the six-speed manual gearbox is combined with four-wheel-drive, it emits 47.9mpg and the CO2 output rises slightly to 159g/km. In 4x4 guise with the automatic gearbox, it achieves 41.5mpg and emissions rise to 178g/km.

Experts predict that, thanks to its upmarket interior, attractive styling and seven-seat configuration, the residuals of the Hyundai Santa Fe should be quite strong.

As with all other cars in the Hyundai model line-up, the Santa Fe includes a fully transferrable, five-year unlimited-mileage warranty and it's probably one of the most affordable cars in its class to run on a daily basis.

Interior, design and technology


Hyundai has made great strides in terms of design, and the Santa Fe was one of the first models to be given a sharp new look. The large chrome grille is the main talking point, while the headlights wrap around the front end. The nose is large and imposing with an Audi-esque grille, while there are plenty of SUV touches elsewhere.

The body looks sleek, and its hefty size makes it an SUV with presence. It's certainly better looking than its sister car, the Kia Sorento, and isn't as dull on the eye as the Honda CR-V.

All three trim-levels of the Hyundai Santa Fe come well-specced. Entry-level and mid-range Style and Premium models come with 18-inch alloys, while the Premium and range-topping Premium SE cars have 19-inch alloys and a touchscreen sat-nav system.

Inside, the Hyundai has the trappings of an upmarket model, with touchscreen sat-nav, plenty of leather trim and silver accents on the dash, but the overall finish can't quite match up to the quality of more upmarket rivals. 

Practicality, comfort and boot space


Given its size, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Hyundai Santa Fe is supremely practical.

There's 585-litres of boot space with the seats in place of the five-seat model, and when they are folded, this extends to 1,680-litres. If ferrying a brood of people is high on your agenda, a third row of seats is also available. It is, however, worth noting that these are difficult to access. Boot capacities with the seats up and folded are slightly reduced on the five-seat model, at 516-litres and 1,615-litres respectively. 

Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Premium interior

The 60:40 split-fold middle seats in the Hyundai Santa Fe slide back and forth for easier access. They can also be folded down by the simple pull of a handle. Leg and headroom is impressive, while large storage cubbies in the doors and centre console offer ample space for your odds and ends. The rearmost windows are quite small, though, so those sitting in the third row of seats might feel a little claustrophobic. 

If caravans are also your thing, the Hyundai Santa Fe is an unparalleled choice as a tow car. It can pull 750kg unbraked or 2,500kg braked. Buyers can even specify a special Trailer Stability Assist system that improves towing safety by limiting torque and braking individual wheels when necessary.

Reliability and Safety


The Hyundai Santa Fe was awarded the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests in 2012. It scored an impressive 96 per cent score for adult protection and as standard, it comes with seven airbags, a strengthened body shell and electronic stability control (ESP).

What's more, Hyundai includes a five-year unlimited mileage warranty meaning buyers can be assured of peace of mind. The interior feels well screwed together and all of the mechanicals were proven in the previous generation Santa Fe.

In our 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the latest Hyundai Santa Fe didn't feature. In terms of manufacturers, Hyundai ranked 18th out of 33.

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Warp speed
The new Santa Fe is a lot better looking car than the one it replaces. Very contemporary looks which also do a good job of concealing the car's bulks.
Price however continues creeping up and most Hyundai products are now perilously close to class leaders. A car's price is part of a car's appeal.
Hyundai does not yet have the same brand image as rivals such as VW, Audi, Ford, etc. Many ownder owe their introduction to Hyundai cars due to their affordable prices. Hyundai should check the urge to keep increasing prices with each model update.

Think the commentary is bang on in terms of where the Hyundai is pitched. I have test driven all the cars you mention including the Hyundai, in the end I've plumped for a top of the range Santa Fe as even though the prices have crept up they're still amazing value. Accept that brand image isn't as high as the others but its a very good car and I'd recommend anyone in the market for the other models test drives it.

X3 is a nice car but frankly unless you get the souped up MSport with the upgrade alloys (£35k+) it looks pretty dull.

CRV is practical but the styling to accommodate the extra seats is scarily close to Ssanyong Rhodius territory, just doesn't look right.

Only one problem with this car. You'll have to wait a LONG time to get one, we're talking at least 9 months, maybe more, maybe over a year! Rumour is Hyundai can't keep up with global demand so they're focussing on 'key' markets... guess what, we're not one of them!

Ordered start of November and still no lead time, build date or any clue as to when they're planning to make it, with another update in March. Its 12 weeks from build start to deliver so I'm looking at at least 7.5 months and I was one of the early orders! So if you want a new car this year, maybe look elsewhere...

i have a 2004 santafe which simply gave me absolutely no hicuups though costing way below others.even the sealed battery is still running- miracle!
with that confidence i place an orderfor a full spec 2013 model with even auto body levelling found in rolls royce!
remember how samsung tv/ phone was 5yrs ago? they have thrashed others by miles.
face the truth korean car is more reliable,advanced and stylish than the dated looking x3/5 which made my tummy turn. badge freaks go sacrifice yr money for self imagined quality .see where hyundai will be if not already as leaders like samsung!

I bought my Santa Fe in January 2013. The vehicle was actually registered in November 2012 and had 600 miles on the clock. It was being used as the local dealer's 'showpiece' at the time. The model was the 7 seat Premium SE Auto and was and still is the most Highest spec and expensive model sold by Hyundai.

!!! The model is fitted with the Xenon Headlamps !!!

Since day one of my ownership I have an on going issue with Hyundai in that the headlamp fitted to the drivers side of my vehicle 'shakes' when going over a little bit of rough surface ( ie speed bumps etc).

The vehicle has been returned to my local dealer several times and Hyundai have actually replaced both headlamp units but the problem remains.
My local dealership have in fairness bent over backwards to sort the problem but now seems powerless to progress any further due to Hyundai putting the blocks on.
My last update was that Hyundai would not carry out any further investigative work until they had evidence of the fault.? The fact that the dealership technicians have seen the problem themselves doesn't seem to matter!!
It is accepted that the fault can only be identified during the hours of darkness and we are in the middle of a British summer where the nights are very short but I am sure that a major company as Hyundai have their own testing methods / conditions!
So the fight goes on and on and on and on!!!
Would I buy another Santa Fe? -
Yes most definitely, it's a good looking car and drives very nice. Certainly turns a few heads whilst out and about

Not the same brand image as Ford ? Hyundai prices are close to class leaders because the cars are almost class leaders and in a few years time they will be class leaders with prices to match

I am in North America visiting, and noticed this starts at $26k CDN, whereas it is £26in the UK - close to double! (@1.83 exchange)

It's called "rip off Britain"
And it's been going on since the car (and just about anything sold in the UK) was invented.

will till you google the prices of cars cost across all brands in Malaysia. It borderlines insanity

Last updated: 9 Mar, 2015